Updated: Feb 16
So, you're rescheduling your wedding for the first, second, or even third time as a result of COVID-19; the bane of everyone's existence. You are probably trying to find a new date, maybe a new venue, vendors, and culling your guest list like your close friends and family are your virtual football league roster. On the upside, people are getting vaccinated by the millions, and the word on the street is that the regulations for large gatherings will continue to loosen. Still, the air of uncertainty continues to linger relentlessly. If you've already lost deposits your new budget is slimmer - unlike most of our waistlines - and you're now trying to figure out how to pull off an elegant wedding celebration with fewer resources, and much fiercer competition to book vendors. Inevitably you are going to have to make some concessions and cut some corners, but that doesn't mean you can't still have your dream wedding. It just means you're going to need to get creative and embrace some DIY and low-budget options while deciding what is essential and what's just a "nice to have". We're going to walk you through a bunch of things to consider that will help you figure out what can stay and what can go!
First let's look at one of the biggest expenses on anyone's wedding budget; the catering. Here are some statistics we found from theknot.com "According to our data, the average wedding catering cost was $9,170 (or, on average, $70 per head). However, many couples deem food (and professional catering) a worthy expense. Fifty-six percent of couples listed food and beverage as the most important priority while wedding planning." As self-proclaimed foodies we really do think that having good food at your wedding is a priority. Notice that we didn't say "fancy food", we said "good food". There are a ton of ways to still serve up some really tasty bites to your beloved - albeit pared down - guest list. You may be thinking "What do photographers know about wedding catering?". The answer is; more than 99% of human beings. We are served at the vast majority of weddings so we've experienced everything from a food-truck smorgasbord, or a serve-yourself buffet, all the way up to a sit-down plated steak tenderloin dinner replete with waiters and fine china. In addition, we just planned our own wedding in 2018 so this is all still very fresh for us.
Of course, most people would prefer the classiest and fanciest version of everything, but the sit-down plated option is by far the most expensive - sometimes prohibitively so. If you're dead-set on going plated, consider something like a nice chicken dish as opposed to the pricey beef tenderloin, every little bit saved goes a long way. However, that's not going to take a huge chunk out of your catering costs. Our favorite option for saving a ton on catering while maintaining excellent quality food is the food truck. Food trucks are masters at serving large quantities from a small space, and considering that it's the same process as having a buffet - that is - people have to get up from their tables and stand in line to be served. It is decidedly more fun and often the food is much better than you'd find in many catered buffets. Another plus is that you can hire any food truck you'd like (or even two if there's enough space for them to pull in). Do you love Indian pakoras or Vietnamese Bon Mi? Do you crave BBQ ribs or giant homemade ice-cream sandwiches with any flavor cookies and ice cream you want? Food trucks can deliver! The downside is that the food truck option is mostly limited to outdoor events with parking close enough that your guests can quickly get to the grub on foot. Did I mention that food trucks are super fun? If you have family coming in from suburban or rural areas to a more urban area - where you'll find most food trucks - the novelty of eating from one can be a super memorable experience and make them think "wow these city-slickers sure know how to grub down!". Most guests don't care how fancy the meal is as long as they leave satisfied. If you can make it a fun experience and give them a good story to bring home while saving a bunch on catering then it's a win-win! Whatever catering option you go for, try looking for ways to shave a few dollars per plate off here or there, and when that's multiplied across your entire guest list this can total up to some awesome savings!
Next up; the venue. Maybe your original wedding plans had your ceremony at a beautiful church, and your reception at the Ritz Carlton. But, now you're not sure you can even afford to get hitched at the Motel 6? Consider a family member or a friend's backyard. Sure it's a big ask, but it could be the answer to a huge problem. That problem being that you can't find a venue that's affordable, and available on the date that works for the majority of the vendors you have booked. Most friends or family won't charge you, and in our opinion, a well appointed backyard wedding can truly be the most elegant and memorable. Sure you won't be able to have a 150 person guest list in most cases - unless you’re friends with Jeff Bezos. Remember if you're booking 3 or 6 months out we just don't know what the regulations will be by then, so it's probably best to just plan as if the current rules will be the same on your wedding date as they are today. It's better to invite extras last minute if the guidelines open up than to have to tell people that have already RSVP'd that now they cannot come - awkward! Don't have any friends or family with suitable houses or yards? Think outside of the box. Oftentimes you can get a permit to have a ceremony in a pretty park nearby. Just be sure to contact your local government and find out what permits you need - don't just show up. There are also lots of non-traditional venues like restaurants or spaces owned by non-profits that may rent them out for events. By finding a beautiful alternative to your classic hotel conference room or event space you'll be saving a bunch that you can put towards making all of the details more beautiful and memorable.
The next most expensive thing in most people's wedding budgets is generally the photographers. Guess what!? Don't try and save anything on photographers- pay full price and tip well! Just kidding, but not really lol. In all seriousness we have done a lot of planning and consideration for couples trying to reschedule their weddings with us and have been giving discounted rates to work within your newly trimmed down budgets. It's different for every couple but we've given discounts in excess of 30% so that couples who really want quality wedding photos can get them, and don't have to tell Nanna and Pop Pop that they are uninvited. You're welcome Nanna and Pop Pop! Honestly the best advice we can give for finding your perfect photographers while still staying within your budget is to tell them upfront what you can afford to spend on photos. Many photographers will offer a package with fewer hours, maybe shave off an engagement shoot, or even just straight-up give you a discount. Maybe they'll do all three! Another consideration is the uncertainty of what will happen if you have to reschedule AGAIN!?! The hard truth is that many photographers cannot afford to give back every single deposit or retainer when someone cancels, or has to reschedule. They set aside that date and oftentimes turned down many other weddings to keep the day free for yours. Simply by holding that date for you and turning down other work they've earned the retainer or deposit regardless of whether they shoot the wedding or not. So the best anyone can do is find a photography team with a reasonable cancellation and rebooking policy. Read your contract! Ask Questions! Clarify anything you don't fully understand with your photographers! Our policy says that as long as a couple cancels 14 days or more from the date of the wedding that they will get back 100% of their payment besides the retainer fee (for reasons stated above). In addition we will make every effort to charge as little as possible for rebooking. In fact, if a client of ours cancels a month before their wedding - well beyond the 14 day cutoff - and reschedules for a date we have available within 6 months of their original day we will simply shift their entire contract over to their new date. It wouldn't cost them anything extra to reschedule. These are the types of questions you want to ask about a photographers cancellation and rescheduling policy. Be assured, not everyone is as nice as us. Make sure that should anything keep you from having this particular iteration of your wedding, and should you need to reschedule again for the millionth time, that you won't lose a ton of money, and can keep the amazing photographers you found.
There are still a ton of other places you can find to save a few bucks per head but these we've listed are where you can save significantly and make the most room in your budget. Even shaving ten dollars off the cost of each guest for a hundred person affair is $1000 in savings. If you can do that in two or three places you've just saved a few thousand bucks and that can really be the difference between a successful wedding and one that makes you cry at night - not in a romantic way. The bottom line is, if you want to plan a beautiful wedding celebration on a shoestring you've got to be willing to compromise and think outside of the box. You'll be happy when Nanna and Pop Pop are gleefully chowing down on Bon-Mi from a food truck saying how nice it is that they didn't have to leave their house because you're having your wedding in their backyard! Your wallet will thank you as well.